Art of Fencing, Art of Life

Why You Should Yell and Scream In Fencing

Yelling and screaming in fencing: why you should yell and screamRecently I was at a competition, and a new parent approached me. She has a young fencer new to the sport and they were both new to the experience of competitions. She asked me, “Why do the other girls yell so much?” She thought it was inappropriate to behave in that way and that the other girl should be penalized or punished for her outbursts.

If you’re new to the sport of competitive fencing it’s easy to mistake the outbursts to be some kind of temper tantrum or even bad sportsmanship. But the truth is it’s completely appropriate behavior, and in fact, it is encouraged and even sometimes cheered!

Here’s why.

Who Yells in Fencing

Before modern technology during non-electric fencing competitions, fencers would often yell as a way to attract the attention of the referee. This was a way to persuade the judge to give the point to the yelling fencer.

As time went on and technology improved, some of the theatrics continued to remain effective. Well-timed screams can still influence a judge’s perception of the point mostly due to the surprise and shock of it!  

Today everyone yells all the way from  from Y8 to veteran fencers at the age of 80! All over the world, in any level of competition, someone is yelling about something. And moreover, many coaches require that you use your voice even in practice exercises.

As a spectator, when fencers yell it becomes so much more fun to watch the sport! Particularly during the Olympic Games. It significantly adds to the enjoyment and it also engages the spectators in a way that is similar to watching a football or hockey game. When they score they celebrate, and so do you! It’s possible that you would be bored if they did not scream, right?

Why Fencers Yell

There are as many reasons that fencers yell as there are styles of fencing.

1. To release tension

Some tough bouts can have you building up a lot of stress and tension, and you are super focused when you fence for a point. Then suddenly, you score and as a result, there is a feeling of relief and accomplishment in this touch. So you may scream to release this tension that built up.

2. Gain your confidence back

Sometimes a fencer may feel  a bit uncomfortable in a bout or against this specific opponent. They might not score a touch in a long streak, and with each lost touch they loses a little bit more of their confidence. Yelling when they finally score the long awaited touch helps to regain this confidence, and get them back into the game.

A well-timed yell can even help you motivate yourself, like a mini pep talk. You’ll often hear fencers yelling things like “Come on!” “Let’s do this!,” “Here we go!”  And so on.

3. Yelling helps to combat nerves

A bit similar to building confidence, yelling can help to squash nerves and help you relax. As we yell we release ephedrine also known as adrenaline which can give us a boost of energy, helping us both to focus and relax.

4. Yelling out of pure celebration

Whether it is a final touch, a touch after a long streak of opponent’s touches, a touch that changes the course of the bout or an epic touch, there are so many reasons that fencers may yell in celebration!

5. Reinstalling your presence of the strip

You also need to show your opponent that you will fight till the end, that you aren’t done yet and even if they have a sizeable lead, you’re not going to let your opponent cruise through this bout.

6. Yelling to play mind games

It’s possible to influence your opponent through your yell. Experienced opponents will shake it off easily, but much less experienced opponents may get annoyed,  and lose their focus, which gives you a slight advantage.

7. Yell to influence the referee

Yelling to persuade a right of way touch is especially common in the foil and sabre categories. As much as we think that referees should be totally objective and not be influenced by the yelling, at the end of the day, they are humans, they do make mistakes, and there are different level of referees.

For example,  if a fencer is known to scream, and a particular fencing referee is known to respond to yelling by awarding points positively in that fencer’s direction, an opponent fencer may choose to yell as well, to be more evenly matched in the eyes of the referee!  As much as we would like this not be a case, such situations do happen.

This video has some great examples of fencing yells and interviews with some major fencers talking about why and when they yell.

For some, it’s simply a release of pressure built up from the mental and physical tension of a bout, particularly if the score is very close or if the two fencers are very evenly matched. Just like you may yell from pain when you stub your toe, or  as a way to help relieve the pressure and relax, shouting in a high-pressure bout can create a quick bit of release to help you focus and get back into the game.

When Yelling In Fencing Isn’t Appropriate

Generally speaking, it’s not appropriate to yell directly into your opponent’s face. Typically fencers will turn away and shout, making sure to be further out of direct earshot.

Most fencers also don’t yell in practice and save all that release of emotion for competition.  Training is more reserved for socialization and betterment of your skills as a fencer.

What you can yell is a bit up for debate as well, although yelling things directed at your opponent, including name-calling or bullying is strongly discouraged. Once I was at an SYC Y14 competition and I witnessed a fencer yelling “Yay, Loser!” (Or something to this affect) to his opponent. He was immediately yellow carded by the referee and I couldn’t agree more with that call.

Typically what fencers yell is just a scream without any meaning, but sometimes it is “Yay!”, “Yes”, “Let’s go!” or something similar to express emotion.

It’s also generally understood that if you have secured a significant lead, continuing to yell becomes unsportsmanlike. It’s almost like you’re rubbing it into your opponent’s face how much better you are. In that case, yelling is best reserved for the final winning touch or more competitive bouts.

Many older and experienced fencers choose not to yell at their younger opponents, purely out of respect for their age and their newness to the sport.

While there’s no hard and fast rule as to how long a yell can be or what is an acceptable length, as with everything less tangible, you should apply a rule of a good taste. Is this something that you find offensive? If so, don’t do it! Are you going to yell in a way that wouldn’t make you proud when you watch a video reply of it? If not, don’t do it!

Yell Respectfully

Yelling is an important part of fencing. Many coaches incorporate yelling in their drills and routine exercises. To teach young fencers to do it right, and to learn how to release the tension and regain their focus and confidence. I’ve seen many fencers start their competitive season quiet as a mouse, to end it yelling primal screams that intimidate their opponent and pump themselves up!

It’s worth experimenting with as you’re learning and growing as a fencer. And if your child is fencing and starts yelling, do not  discourage this! It can be an excellent way for some fencers to improve their focus and concentration and get back to the game

Photo credit: Leo Mason-USA TODAY Sports 


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  1. R

    Yelling in a opponent’s face is not only inappropriate – it’s cardable.

  2. DJ

    I find it a sad trend, bringing fencing down to the level of activities that do not share in our great, centuries-old tradition.

    The last time I fenced in a tournament, most of the fencers younger than 20 yelled and screamed if touched and when scoring a touch. They also barely saluted anyone, lifting their weapon about belly-button high and swiping it down. That used to be grounds for a yellow card.

    As much as the outstanding physical and mental workout, I have always loved fencing because of its rich tradition and respect. That’s what we’re kicking to the curb, in my opinion.

    Be well.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi DJ,
      Take a look at the yelling at Rome 1960 Olympic Games – Italians vs. Russians: – this is almost 60 years ago.
      My thesis is pretty simple – yelling existed, exist and will exist in fencing, it is a common thing and actually a great thing. But as with everything – whatever you do on or off the strip, you should do it with respect to your opponent. If you follow that rule, you do not fail fencing’s rich tradition and respect. As you can see in that historical match – yelling was part of the game back then same as it is now.

  3. Dave

    Sad that the “Academy of Fencing Masters” would condone yelling – unsportsmanlike showboating. Worse that officials can be swayed by this. Cheapens the sport immensely.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      We do not condone unsportsmanlike behavior – being it yelling or any other thing, on or off the strip. But yelling conducted appropriately (within a boundaries as described in the post) – exists in this sport and makes it great, for fencers and spectators. Take a look at epic touch and epic yell:

    • Guy

      I couldn’t agree more!! If they want to yell, give them sticks with rusty nails sticking out of it and let them go at it like two street thugs. It’s a disgusting practice and has completely ruined the sport!!!

  4. Dave

    I totally disagree – I guess it is a matter of opinion. Yelling on match point in a close well fought match or a spectacular point would be appropriate otherwise it’s excess. On EVERY point it’s downright embarrassing!

    Just my thoughts, we’ll have to agree to disagree.


  5. I just don’t get it, plus in your opening statement “persuade the judge to give the point to the yelling fencer” I don’t think I’ve ever seen this work, and to me, a reason to stop this yelling nonsense

    • Igor Chirashnya

      If you read the whole post you will see most of the reasons fencers yell. Sometimes, it is also an attempt to turn the outcome to one’s favor. Happens at every level of competition, from local tournament to Olympic matches.

      • r

        Ineffective on me as ref, possibly the opposite.

        • Igor Chirashnya

          That’s good that you ignore yelling and tell only the action. Hopefully you do not punish the yeller with an opposite call 🙂

  6. Li Liu

    Yelling makes fencing quite unique comparing with other sports. When I went to a fencing tournament first time, I was very amused and sometime touched by the emotions coming from the sweaty and intensive battle field., crying kids, yelling kids and happy cheering etc.. These all make the tournament more real and more interesting to watch.

    I wish my kids yell, but they don’t and they don’t like me cheer for them either. Especially my daughter, she barely shows her emotion loudly. Maybe it is a personality thing. Of course yell it in a proper way is important.

  7. James

    I come from a traditional martial arts background, where yelling (“kiai” in Japanese) is associated with a release of energy during an attack. To yell after a match or after a point is judged is considered disrespectful and seems somewhat self-celebratory. My son now fences and I find it difficult to understand fencers screaming in reaction to simply doing what they’re supposed to do. Maybe it’s just me. I dont really feel comfortable with that aspect of the sport. Humility seems so much cooler.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi James, thanks for your opinion! Every sport has its own conventions, that are not always applicable to other sports.

  8. Richard

    As a parent sitting at a tournament right now the whole practice is appalling and embarrassing. It is COMPLETELY unsportsmanlike, unpleasant and in some cases I witness downright nasty. It’s an utter disgrace that such a classical sport condones such nonsense. I refuse to let my daughter do it, and I’ve told her coach not to even cross that boundary.

    • Igor Chirashnya

      Hi Richard,
      As I wrote to another parent a while ago
      “Take a look at the yelling at Rome 1960 Olympic Games – Italians vs. Russians: – this is almost 60 years ago.
      My thesis is pretty simple – yelling existed, exist and will exist in fencing, it is a common thing and actually a great thing. But as with everything – whatever you do on or off the strip, you should do it with respect to your opponent. If you follow that rule, you do not fail fencing’s rich tradition and respect. As you can see in that historical match – yelling was part of the game back then same as it is now.”

    • P

      You’ve stated you’re a parent (spectator) and aren’t a fencer. So you don’t know what it’s like to have this audible release while fencing. You are also assuming it’s taunting and not an audible release. Limited viewpoint. Also mandating what SOMEONE ELSE DOES when THEY fence?

      Again there are many reasons pros and cons to it. People just love to push their agenda by not respecting any other point of view.

  9. Emma

    When I started fencing, I never saw the purpose of yelling. I always thought it was unsportsmanlike and something that only annoying teenage boys did. Being a hyper-aggressive person myself, I soon learned that yelling is an amazing way to release tension during a bout. It really helps me to keep myself determined and focused. Just today I won a bout against a fencer I never thought I could beat, and I definitely yelled in celebration!
    Of course, I also agree that yelling can go too far. Just a few weeks ago, in a DE bout, another fencer got really mad at me because I yelled when I got a touch after a VERY long streak of his touches. Not only did he proceed to fleche at me twice, ending the bout, he actually pulled off his mask and screamed directly at me with the last touch! We had a beginner referee, so he didn’t get a card, but it just goes to show that you need to be careful about who you piss off! My general rule is no more than two syllables, and no words. I usually go with a screech, growl or “BA!” sound.
    I guess my point is, no, yelling isn’t an unsportsmanlike, undignified way to express yourself. We need to realize that fencing is, at heart, an intense, high-paced combat sport. I’m certain that our Spanish and French forefathers shouted when they stabbed their opponents in the chests too. Killing is never “dignified,” even when done in waistcoats and culottes. And we don’t even have the satisfaction of actually stabbing people! At least let us shout a little.

  10. J

    It’s the single worst thing about modern fencing. Just because it’s become normalized doesn’t make it any less disrespectful or obnoxious.

    • Anonymous

      Having only watched a little fencing before – during the Olympics – and now again during the Olympics, all I can say is it may be acceptable and “maybe” defensible, but it sure is incredibly annoying. Like when tennis players started with the over-the-top screaming on EVERY shot.

      Plus, I call BS on most of the rationale for incessant yelling. Kevin Durant may yell after a particularly big shot, but he doesn’t do it every stinkin’ time. And he’s one of the best in the world at what he does. He seems able to perform at an elite level without acting like a twit.

  11. Anonymous

    I feel it cheapens the sport, and makes the fencers who scream look like a bunch of toddlers.
    In my eyes, fencing has always been an gentlemen’s sport, and exaggerated emotional reactions do not really fit in that picture.

  12. Anonymous

    I think it’s funny and really jarring the first time you see/hear it. People are so uptight…

  13. Rob

    You forgot other advantages to yelling:
    8. Notwithstanding your above contentions, ANY yelling IS disrespectful of your opponent.
    9. It is distracting and extremely annoying to everyone else in the room
    10. It is now faux-practiced by adolescent fencers, i.e., children with no testoterone, so they can immitate the adults, even though for them it’s not a natural response. This allows them to look ridiculous, if that’s their bouting strategy.
    11. It demonstrates a significant lack of self-control, if that’s also a bouting strategy.
    12. It’s an intimidation strategy that is more in line with the modern cage-fighing strategy.
    13. It is largely admired by the “new generation” of fencers who represent the future of the sport, i.e., those who think being a gentleman or lady is antquated hogwash.
    14. It changes a once respected and honorable sport into a brawl, which is more in line with modern mores.
    Viewers, Don’t bother to respond. I won’t be watching. I’ll be too busy working on my stamp collection. Oh, stamps are the little things we used to put on letters. Letters? That’s how we used to write to one another. Write? Sorry. Forgot you all print now. Never mind. Time for me to go tie-die my fencing uniform.

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